Last week I walked past Taste, avoiding a flock of white, noisy baguette-eating parasites and the ibises accompanying them. My stomach was growling, but I did not grab a baguette, wisely recalling its dry gluiness, along with the recent warning in USyd Rants that Taste staff do not wear gloves during food preparation.
I recalled the many restaurants and cafes near main campus which hit the sweet spot: excellent kilojoules per dollar spent, but slightly better quality than fast food. Next time you decide to venture outside the university’s borders, I hope this article comes in useful.
It’s a bit of a walk, but Newtown Hotel (not the one next to the train station!) has handmade pizzas for $4 between 7-9 pm, with a surprising variety of options. Clearly you’re meant to buy a lot of beer at the same time so the place can actually turn a profit. But my friends and I have aggressively exploited this tactic to acquire hauls of pizza for stupendously small amounts of money.
Broadway’s entry, Bondi Pizza, has respectable value, with two-for-one deals for those with Access membership, with a final cost of about $12 per pizza. While less impressive in terms of value, these pizzas are available during lunchtime and are quite fancy (think Crust).
It wouldn’t be Newtown without a little bit of veganism to spice things up. If the thought of mock meats and vegetable stock gives you a shiver, take comfort in the knowledge that Golden Knowledge will shepherd you safely into the realm of veganism. You’ll be better for it! For under $15 you can score yourself a delish bowl of vegan chicken pho. This gem was such a hit that in 2017, they expanded into the store next door to cater for the demand.
Broadway clearly dominates in the steak department. Landsdowne Hotel’s steaks come with a pesto or butter sauce, and I have never experienced one that did not genuinely surprise me with its quality. Their chips are thin and none-too greasy—think Maccas’ chips, but good. Alternatively, the Royal Hotel is located near the ABS building and offers larger and tougher steaks, along with a lot more college students and stupol hacks.
What warms the heart more than a Newtown meal deal? If you’re craving Indian and can’t go back to Wentworth food court one more time, Newtown North Indian Diner is only a short walk further up King Street. A bowl of curry with rice or naan will leave your wallet only $8 lighter, while a choice of 1-3 curries with rice & a can of drink comes less than $12. If you want to settle in for a feast, this writer recommends the masala dosa with pani puri and a refreshing rose lassi.
When researching this article, I found a surprising amount of people who didn’t know about Thai La-Ong, a favourite of many clubs due to its incredibly low prices and free BYO. You do get what you pay for here, with the Pad Thai more than a bit greasy, but the sheer quantity of food provided for $10 (or less!) makes up for this. Charles’ Thai, also on King St, has $7.80 lunches, if you’re looking for maximum value.
There are too many Thai options in Newtown to list fully—perhaps the major alternative to the ‘cheap and cheerful’ vibes of Thai La-Ong is Thai Pothong, famous and always packed for all the right reasons, although mains go for around $20. It has amazing curry puffs, fabulous service and a gift shop—go at least once.
I began this article attacking those who would eat at Taste rather than venture outside USyd, but there are a few underrated options on campus. The original Ralph’s Café, down the bottom of Physics Rd and below the tennis courts, is crowded with college students who know a good café when they see one. The Medical School uses Ralph’s for its catering, suggesting that it’s the best money can buy, but it remains very good value. Its breakfasts are generous, especially the omelettes, and the hidden surprise is the array of toastable sandwiches, which are very large and very tasty indeed.
If any of your classes are in ABS, you might already be aware of the spring roll deal offered by the cafe at its base, where you can get 4 spring rolls for $5.50, and even less with Access. Last but definitely not least, Carslaw Kitchen’s lamb boxes and falafel wraps are both filling and nutritious, costing only around $8.